$80m GB power plant officially opened
By CLEOPATRA MURPHY
Freeport News Reporter
The Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) officially opened its $80 million West Sunrise Plant yesterday.
Construction on the new 52 megawatt diesel plant - which the company claimed would improve reliability, efficiency and stabilize the cost of electricity on the island - began last summer on six acres of land adjacent to the company's existing steam plant.
Chris Walker, sales manager at Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC), the lead contractor on the project, praised the speed with which the plant was completed.
"The contract for a complete new 52 megawatt turnkey greenfield power station based on six generation units was signed on April 13, 2011. BWSC was given access to the site on June 11, 2000, and by May 2012, within 11 months, electricity was being produced to assist the Grand Bahama Power Company with their generation needs and commercial production was formalized with a taking over certificate on June 28," he said.
"That's truly as fast track project- on time and on budget, that everyone involved should feel extremely proud of."
Minister of Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville, who served as keynote speaker at the ceremony, congratulated the company on the new facility, noting that as a Canadian-trained electrical engineer, he fully understood the impact the new
plant would have on the delivery of electricity to the island.
"As we are all aware, the reliable utility services are vital to any country's long term growth and development and certainly both the public and private sectors," he said.
Darville said to realize growth and economic development in the island's industrial and tourism sectors, Grand Bahama's energy costs must be lowered.
"According to the Institute for Energy Research in Florida, the average cost of power per kilowatt hour in South Florida is about 11.6 cents. This is a stark contrast to the cost of electricity in Grand Bahama as we are paying between 32 and 38 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity when the fuel surcharge is factored in," he said.
Darville said the government believes it is necessary to move away from the dependency on fossil fuels and has created a National Energy Policy to take the county to 2030.
He noted that the necessary legislation to ensure that regulatory bodies comply with the government's policy is being put in place.
"This policy clearly indicates that the demand and usage of fossil fuels in The Bahamas must be reduced in order for growth in industry to be realized. We believe that tapping into sustainable and alternative sources of energy including ocean thermal and solar energy as well as existing renewable technology, waste to energy technology is the way forward," Darville said.
He urged Emera executives to partner with the government in determining feasible forms of renewable energy.
"While the government appreciates your mammoth investment in power generation on Grand Bahama, we would like you to assist us in ensuring that Grand Bahamians see a significant decrease in the price of electricity, which will mutually benefit all stakeholders, including your company," Darville said.
President and chief executive officer of Emera Chris Huskilson said when the company took over the GBPC it developed a three-step approach to improving reliability and efficiency of electricity on Grand Bahama - temporary generation in the short term, the construction of the West Sunrise Plant and adding 52 megawatts to the existing system in the medium term and in the long term, the assessment of alternative fuels like natural gas, renewable sources and potentially an interconnection to other islands and to Florida.
Huskilson said the new plant would have added to the economic development on the island as the Bahamians involved in the project would have undergone world-class training.
"Improving the reliability of our system and stabilizing rates has been our top priority. This plant represents one of the steps we are taking to achieve these goals," he said.
"Emera believes in Grand Bahama, in this utility and we continue to work hard to make improvements in order to contribute in a positive way to the economy of the island. This is just the start of the plans we have for this company. We will now begin step three of a recovery plan for Grand Bahama Power," Huskilson said.
Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) Ian Fair said the opening of the power plant bodes well for the islands future and establish the GBPC as a leader in the island-based energy industry.
"This new plant will not only serve as a reliable and efficient energy source, but as an economic stimulus for Grand Bahama. Further, employment opportunities now exist for skilled Bahamians who to operate and maintain this world-class facility," he said.
"Also, with improved electrical reliability and efficiency, the climate is ripe for domestic and domestic and international investors seeking to do business on our island."
Fair said the GBPA is dedicated to fulfilling its role as the regulator of the power company and in tandem with the power company implemented a new rate structure comparable to other jurisdictions.
"A strong and healthy electrical utility is fundamental to a strong healthy economy. Emera is now an essential component of this island's economic growth and wellbeing. As they advance towards achieving their overall vision, all of us businesses and residents alike look forward to continued dependable and efficient delivery of electrical power for the benefit of the citizenry of Grand Bahama," Fair said.
© 2012 The Freeport News